COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Oct) – Two persons were killed and another was wounded when unidentified gunmen barged into a coastal village here dawn Thursday, strafed several houses and torched some in what appeared to be an offshoot of a clan war involving Maguindanawon families, officials said.
Quoting witnesses, Senior Supt. Rex Anongos, Cotabato City police director, said 20 to 30 armed men on board a motorized boat disembarked at a village near Timako Hill and launched their attack near a fishpond owned by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema.
While Anongos said they have not established the motive yet as investigations are ongoing, Sema believed it could be because of rido (clan war), possibly an offshoot of last Monday’s ambush in the municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao wherein five people were killed, all belonging to the Ayunan clan.
“I was not the target nor my workers in the fish farm,” assured Sema. “Maybe some residents of the village who have been suspected to have ties with their nemesis [are the targets],” added the chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
But he admitted that the rido has somehow affected him since the warring clans are his close relatives. Sema said he was trying his best to mediate and help settle the family feud to save the lives of civilians, women and children from both sides.
Anongos identified the fatalities in the 5 a.m. attack as Abubakar Guiamalel and Bapa Guia, both residents of Purok Lupapakan, Barangay Kalanganan 2, Cotabato City. Another unidentified villager was wounded.
Ponining Bingbing, a woman in her 70s, was seen leaving the village barefoot and carrying some important belongings. She relayed how she and her family were awakened by a series of gun fires and the eventual burning of several houses.
“We were surprised by the gun fires. We took cover and ran for our lives to different directions as the gunmen continued firing,” she said.
Aside from Bingbing, several villagers also managed to leave the village and hauled their belongings by boats to seek refuge in houses of relatives nearby as long as tension remained in Purok Lupapakan.
Police and members of the Army’s Special Forces responded but the attackers were already gone.
A huge motorboat was left behind, abandoned by the attackers while fleeing on foot to elude the responding government troopers.
The PNP’s Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) recovered at least 75 empty shells from M-16 Armalite rifle, Garand rifle, AK-47 and M-14 rifle, and rifle grenades.
Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. has directed the police, barangay officials and Special Forces to help deploy peacekeepers in the adjoining villages of Kalanganan 1 and 2 and nearby villages to prevent warring families from seeing each other while efforts are underway to settle the conflict.
Last October 26, five persons were killed – including a four-year-old boy, an old woman and her daughters – when they were ambushed in Datu Odin Sinsuat town while travelling from General Santos to this city.
Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, after the Datu Odin Sinsuat ambush, has asked the Maguindanao Task Force on Reconciliation and Unification (MTFRU) to intervene and help ease the tension or settle the clan conflict.
“I am so saddened to learn children, women and innocent civilians were dragged to this senseless killings,” he said.
Rido, according to the book “Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao” published by The Asia Foundation and the USAID, “refers to a state of recurring hostilities between families and kinship groups characterized by a series of retaliatory acts of violence carried out to avenge a perceived affront or injustice.”
Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies , author of the book’s chapter on “Dynamics and Management of Rido in the Province of Maguindanao,” said “conflict becomes rido when a family member of the offended party attempts or carries out violent retaliation.”
“In most cases, conflict becomes rido when it causes the death of a family member from either party. The retaliation and counter-retaliation results in a cycle of vengeance,” he wrote.